To the outboard sides of the wardroom lay berthing for eight
officers. These small cubicles offered modest comforts, to say the least. The
four cabins lining the wardroom were six feet long by four feet wide; the other
four were almost twice as wide, but the rising sides of the hull ate up the
Fortunately for history, the Monitor's paymaster, William Keeler, wrote
long letters to his wife Anna that not only chronicle the famous battle (see
Eyewitness to the Battle), but also give precise details on the ship
and its equipment and furnishings. In one such letter, Keeler describes his
cabin (shown in this panorama) in exacting detail and even provides a sketch:
...A is my desk, B is the door let down to write on, the iron chest [safe] is
placed underneath, C is the door, D is the shelf in which is my washbowl,
underneath is another shelf in which are holes cut (remember that at sea
nothing is placed on a shelf, but in it) for my slop jar,
tumbler, water pitcher, soap dish &c &c, all of nice white ware with
'Monitor' on each in gilt letters. Over the wash bowl is a small shelf for hair
brush, comb &c. Over this shelf, & the bottom resting on it &
reaching nearly to the top of my room, is a large looking glass in a gilt
frame. The floor of my room is covered with oil cloth on which is a tapestry
rug & on this again is a fine, soft goat's hair mat. E is my berth, wide
enough to be comfortable, & just so long that when my head touches one end,
my feet touch the other. In front of it is a handsome rail, 8 or 9 inches high,
turning down on hinges when I wish, the top of the rail being about on a level
with my chin, so I have something of a climb to get into bed. F.F. are two
closets, 3 shelves each, back of the berth, but they are so high up & so
far back that it is unhandy to get at them. Under the berth are four drawers.
The berth, drawers, & closets are all of black-walnut, the curtains are
lace and damask, or an imitation I suppose. For a seat I have a camp stool
covered with a piece of tapestry carpet.
Capt. Ericsson fitted our rooms up at his own expense & has been very
liberal. I have been on board of nearly all the vessels that have left the Yard
since I have been here & have seen no room as handsomely fitted up as ours.
The only objection is they are too dark. I have all my writing to [do] by
candle light & lamps are always burning in the ward room....
Our rooms are all open at the top, for ventilation, & the doors are blinds
[louvered], so that as far as sounds are concerned we might as well be in one
room. While writing now, every word spoken by the circle around the wardroom
table is as audible as if they were seated by my elbow.
In this letter, Keeler neglected to mention that his and all the other cabins,
like the wardroom, had a deck light. It was not the traditional deck prism that
refracted light down into the vessel but rather a thick porthole mounted in the
overhead. On deck, these portholes bore thick iron covers that one could remove
to allow sunlight below; one could also open the portholes to bring in fresh
air. Owing to the Monitor's shallow draft, water tended to fill the deck
lights on rougher days, so each had a petcock for draining accumulated water.